As a past Seabourn cruiser, I was confronted with the lack of being able to go on my third cruise with them due to non-availability of a suitable itinerary, as all their cruises of interest were fully booked.
In my search of seeking an alternative, I noted favorable reports on Seven Seas Regent Cruises and decided to consider it.
After some consideration and apprehension, we chose the IBERIAN INTERLUDE, London (Southampton) to Barcelona followed by GEMS OF PROVENCE, Barcelona to Monte Carlo.
I hope the following review presents not only a review of the Regent Voyager and its crew to interested cruise critic members, but also one that compares it to the Seabourn vessels of the Odyssey and Sojourn. Both claim to be Luxury Cruise Lines and I thought it would be interesting to detail their comparisons against each other for both potential and current cruisers.
Reviewing the itinerary, it would be fair to state, that we were eagerly looking forward to visiting the wonderful ports listed in the 21 day cruise. What put the icing on the cake, was the excitement the recent Olympic games gave us and the opportunity of departing from London, a city we have never been to before. Further we were due to meet past Seabourn cruise friends on this cruise as well.
As with Regent cruises, a pre cruise hotel was arranged at the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, not the best hotel we have stayed at, but adequate. Transfer to Southampton by bus, was relatively organised and efficient, without the worry or pain, of having to lug overweight suitcases around.
As soon as we arrived at the port to embark upon the Voyager at Southhampton, we noticed it to be a larger ship when compared to the Seabourn vessels. Upon getting off the bus, you are directed to check in. It was efficient and painless.
Whilst there are members of the crew to welcome you, it did lack some personal warmth which we have become accustomed to with Seabourn. No refreshing juice in a champagne glass is handed to you whilst you check in, which whilst it is not a priority, was noted as different to our past experiences.
Nor was there a crew member made available, to guide you along the vessel which we, as new passengers, did get our bearings out of sequence, in our search for our cabin.
Once you arrive at your suite, in our case suite 778 (7th level), you find a bottle of champagne on ice but no stewardess. Again not a priority, but it would have been a nice personal touch.
The suite is surprisingly the same size as those on Seabourn, with a similar configuration. What puzzled me was, whilst it was similar, I obtained a sense of more space and flow throughout the suite.
A traditional suite, tanned timber, brown and cream color scheme with a splash of gold fittings, provided a warm sense of feeling within the suite. Complimenting this was a lack of a cupboard in front of the bed as with Seabourn vessels, which I think, gave the Voyager suite a sense of more space without making the room's storage capacity insufficient.
There was adequate room for us to walk along the side of the king size bed without feeling "squashed" and a beauty console positioned in an angled manner near the bed, rather than in the hallway, which again gives the sense of space and room flow.
A larger couch is present in the suite, enough room for 3, possibly 4 adults to sit on with a small table and two tube chairs.
The wardrobe is definitely wider and easier to walk into. Its width probably comes from the reduction of the bathroom basin from the two number on Seabourn to one on the Voyager. There is still a bath which one day, don't know when, I will use. The shower is adequate and easier to use where there is one control for temperature and another for flow. In fact, I was surprised how quick the hot water arrived when the shower was turned on and how good the flow was.
Wall to ceiling glass, with a door that slides, not opening out into the veranda. From a design perspective, a far more prudent solution to that on the Seabourn vessels. Your view is not obstructed in anyway, even though the railing is a series of horizontal steel rails with a timber top rail. There are white steel screens between each suite to provide privacy, yet if you are leaning on the rails, you are still able to greet your next door neighbour without having to break your back bending over sideways.
I found the vibration in our suite to be without doubt, worse to what I have experienced before, but I believe it was due to the fact we were at the rear of the ship. Next time, I will try to get a suite at mid level and mid point. There was one night the swell was 8 to 10 metres and did it "rock and roll", my god that was an experience I wish I never had.
To the captains credit, Mr Gianmario Sanguineti, he advised all guests of the anticipated uncomfortable conditions and his recommendation to take appropriate mediation if we were affected by such.
In regards to the room services or amenities, the wife advised me that the hair dryer was inadequate, I noted that whilst Regent claim to have 225 movies available on their entertainment system, there were only a total of 40 to 50 movies/tv soap series within the room entertainment system present for the first week, then increasing to 60 the second and 140 for the final week. I do not know why this number changed during the cruise leg. There are also DVD's available in the computer room, but it hardly inspired me to get them.
There was no ipod connection point within the room to enable you to listen to your own music, but I since discovered they are available in higher level rooms. A bit disappointing but again, not a deal breaker.
As an engineer, I was puzzled to note that the walls between the suites were not as "soundproof" as one would expect, where I would frequently hear next door's toilet flush or their bed time conversation. This is probably due to the fact the Voyager is a vessel of 10 to 15 years old rather than the modern Seabourn vessels where the "soundproofing" was definitely better.
In all, whilst the room had vibration, not as contemporary and modern, I like the efficiency and flow of the Voyager suites.
There have been many comments on the crew within several boards of CruiseCritic.com. I found the crew had two levels of service. One willing to engage easily with you, the other have some hesitation to engage. Whilst they all work hard and undertake their duties, I could not work out why there was this service difference. Until I noted a cultural difference exists, where some crew members would go into their shell, when they were treated in a certain manner by cruise clients, which I personally found disgusting.
I just don't get it after being on three cruises.
Why do some cruisers treat these wonderful members like slaves, barking orders at them. One person was an absolute ars,,,, oh well, better not swear in this review but I'm sure you know what I mean. He was terrible, picking fights with staff members as well as us fellow cruisers. Many on the Voyager know exactly who I am referring to. I hope I never see this person again, ever.
The European crew members took the abuse in their stride, they just rolled with the punches. Other crew members became shy, but after a few jokes they opened up a bit more and enjoyed I hope, our presence as cruisers.
Hard working I mentioned earlier, yes indeed. The cruisers to staff ratio is higher, 1.7 to 1 in comparison to approximately 1.1 to 1 on Seabourn. The result of this difference is; the crew does not remember your name; choice of beverage for breakfast; drinks around the pool and preference of wine after two weeks on cruising. On the third, I was pleasantly surprised to be referred to by my name as I made it a point to know the crew member's name and thank them on every occasion for their service.
Crew numbers during meal times is lower and service a little slower, not due to their effort attempts, but due to the simple fact, that they lacked numbers. The wine consultant was running from level 4 to 11 to serve all guests during ,meal times and was raising a sweat. It wasn't his fault, he just had to do the role of 1.7 personnel.
In a similar vein, servicing of rooms was slower (with staff eager to get into your rooms as they have a heavy workload) it still was completed, but not as fast as we were accustomed on Seabourn. I believe there was a different service level for those that had a butler as part of their suite package. Not sure though if it is worth the additional cost for such.
In all, the team is young, slightly reserved, beautiful and a pleasure to be with. In comparison to Seabourn, I believe the personal touch that comes with their better cruisers to staff ratio and the choice of European and South African crew members, makes the Seabourn team a more pleasurable and personal one to be with.
Notwithstanding this view, the cruise director, Mr Jamie Logan was excellent. On our cruise he had some family matters which forced his wife, who normally travels with him, to return home. Despite this, he was always visible, smiling, willing to talk, laugh and share stories. By far the best Cruise Director we have experienced.
Other crew members worth mentioning are from the wonderful girls of Olga and Anna from Signatures and La Veranda. I affectionately referred to these girls as "darling" as simply, they were darlings.
From reception Marija and Elisa, my "bella signorinas", and Mauro and Umberto, where we share many an Italian laugh and wine stories. Mehmat, the pool barman who got me at times, "tippsy" with his wonderful mojitos. Leading the restaurant team Dejan, Carlos and Sylvester, all wonderful men to talk to and men that went the extra step to make you happy.
Which brings me to the topic of food.
Simply, the food is excellent, always served on hot plates and cooked to the requested level. Wine plentiful and when ordering a red wine, always served in the appropriate red wine glass, regardless of whether it was reserve selection or not.
After being on the ship for 21 days, I will not step on those scales, until I eat brown bread and water for the next 4 weeks !
There are 5 Restaurants on the ship starting with "La Veranda" for breakfast and lunch which then becomes "Sette Mari" at night. Compass Rose " with an "al carte" rotating menu choice. Both these restaurants required no booking and at no time, were we not able to be seated within 10 minutes, but I did hear some struggled to get into "Sette Mari" at times.
Breakfast at La Veranda was under par, always struggled to find a spoon. In fact, I was told they lose 500 spoons per cruise leg. Why on earth would anyone want to take them home, is beyond me.
Prime 7 restaurant in one word, brilliant. The best seafood and steaks I have ever had. Crab legs from Alaska, fresh not frozen. Meat that is aged, perfectly rated and respected in its cooking and serving. Ambiance that is fitting of a seriously respectful restaurant.
Signatures, a French restaurant with food, refined and excellent, on every single occasion.
A 5 star performance in quality of food and service in both Prime 7 and Signatures Restaurants.
The only problem was to enjoy this treat, you have to book in advance due to its popularity. I dearly would have liked to have eaten there on more occasions. Seasoned Regent cruisers could get around the booking system due to knowing many crew members, which assisted me, as they were kind enough to invite us to be present with them.
For the lazy days, the outdoor pool grill served up the usual favorites, nothing outstanding really, but I did take a liking to the spare ribs on the American buffet days, simply mouth-watering with its taste and tenderness.
Compass Rose at times was excellent, but there were nights where it was off. We found when numbers in the restaurant were down, so was service. I think that it was again due to numbers, they are quick to relocate crew members to attend to the venue of popularity on the particular evening. At times the food was excellent, during others no so good. Taking both levels into account, probably a 4 star performance in Compass Rose.
In addition to these restaurants, room service is available 24 hours a day and there are snack places around the ship where you can get sandwiches, fruit, cookies, cakes and drinks. I struggled to find a decent cup of coffee. "illy" is the choice of coffee beans back home, but somehow, they slaughtered a simple espresso, which I found hard to understand how they actually did. So for my coffee fix, I was thankful for the European on shore coffee shops.
Considering this ship is more than double the size of Seabourn ships, a wider choice of meal options a very good effort for which I never heard a plate crash, until the last night, but after 21 days that's a pretty good effort.
The only other comment I wish to also make is, I missed a similar environment to Seabourn square. A place where you can chill out, reading a book or newspapers whilst having a cup of coffee or tea. There are places to do the same on the Voyager, but for a ship with 700 guests, its position lacked space, privacy and availability due to insufficient seats.
During the day, there are activities within the ship to keep guests entertained, however as we were docked at a different locations every day, most guests liked attending tours, walking and exploring the new environments. During the night there are primarily 4 areas to go to, the Constellation Club on Deck 4 with live cabaret and magical shows plus the Voyager Lounge. On Deck 11 the Observation Lounge with piano music whilst on Deck 5 Horizon Lounge for some more live music.
For first time cruisers if you are wondering how and what steps are taken to visit shore, well it's pretty simple, as you have provided your passports to Regent during check in, they provide you a Guest pass where you tag on and tag off. There two methods of berthing, one against the docks which is very simple to disembark down a ramp or stairs and in the ocean, where you use shuttle transfers, Due to number of guests taking excursions, the tenders were slower than expected.
I tried to understand why this was, then it came to me.
With the all inclusive nature of the shore excursions, it compelled most cruisers to take nearly all the excursion options, as they effectively paid for them in the cruise price. This attitude considerably increased shore excursion numbers which affected the efficiency and timing of departure.
The other downfall is that some of the shore excursions were simply not up to standard and a better option was to explore the city of berth, rather than be on a bus in traffic, once in a bus where the driver refused to switch on the air conditioning.
I noted that on the shore excursions, that no Regent Representative is present checking quality of guide, bus and service. This is probably again due to lack of personnel and feedback was left to cruisers on the shore excursions, which we promptly did provide. But it should not have been left to us as frankly, we are holidays and didn't need the aggravation of having debates with Guides or bus drivers.
It was interesting, that many on the cruise shared this opinion and like me, returned shore excursion tickets in preference to self exploration. Some even agreed it would be a good idea to removing the all inclusive nature of shore excursions, which may remove some of the problems I mentioned above. I however very much doubt that will occur on Regent as it is a heavily prompted aspect of this cruise line.
I had the pleasure of meeting fellow cruiser "Terry has gone cruising" on this leg. A person who has traveled on a number of cruise lines, 41 times on Regent. It was interesting to talk to him about the differences between the two firms of Regent and Seabourn. He recently experienced a terrible cruise leg on the Quest, his stories were hard to comprehend given our past experiences, but we have not been back to Seabourn for 18 months and maybe things have changed with the influence of HAL.
Terry also noted the slight change in Regent recently, where it had lost its personal touch I referred to earlier in my review. He mentioned it not as a complaint, but as a comment where he cared for the firm and its brand, where he believes the Regent and Radisson of old, was a better and more personal cruise line.
Finally, as I regretfully started packing my bags for departure, said our good byes, I dreaded the battle that awaited me in lugging overweight bags and finding a Taxi as we chose to make our own arrangements.
Much to our surprise and pleasure, the team was still there helping us with our bags and securing a Taxi. What a joy as they did not need to that, but they did. That never occurred with Seabourn and maybe they need to take a simple lesson from Regent in that.
Here lies the conundrum, when Regent do things well, they do it very, very, very well. However, when they are off, they are off. Thankfully, not too many times on our cruise.
For me, as always after a cruise, I have tried to reflect on what my thoughts are on this ship without the joy of the places we visited affecting my opinion.
Yes, the Voyager is different to the Seabourn vessels of Odyssey and Sojourn, she is larger yet gave no sense of over-crowdedness, older in style and services and lacked some personal finesse at times.
The room layout is better but lacks some modern technical touches in comparison to Seabourn. Its crew hard working with higher client crew ratio, yet not all as personal. Food better, wine slightly under. Lacks an open, coffee, reading and meeting point lounge but has plenty of bars to drink away. Shore excursion choices plentiful, however slightly under in quality.
In summary, this is a very good cruise ship and those considering it in comparison to Seabourn will not be significantly disappointed.
Is it better than the Seabourn vessels of Odyssey or Sojourn ? God it's a hard call. We had a wonderful time which improved the more we stayed on the ship, slowly being accepted as part of the Regent family. We made many new friends and reacquainted with past friends, but I put this forward as my view /opinion.
At the luxury cruise line level, a line is better only if it suits your expectations and requirements.
At this level, I believe that there is no better luxury cruise line as it is purely a subjective opinion, based on what one's opinion and expectation. Seabourn, suits me better as I seek the personal touch and feeling of immediately being part of the crew family, which is why I did not take up Regent's next cruise deposit option.
Does that mean I will not consider them again in the future, definitely not.
I now have two cruise lines with their itineraries to consider when I next go cruising. Life is pretty good when you have that isn't it ?